When the sun in the morning
peeps over the hill
And kisses the roses round my
Then my heart fills with gladness
when I hear the trill
Of those birds in the treetops on
Tra la la, tweedle de de, it gives
me a thrill
To wake up in the morning to
the mockingbirds’ trill
Tra la la, tweedle de de
There’s peace and good will
You’re welcome as the flowers
on Mockingbird Hill
I have no idea who wrote or first recorded that song but I’ve been told that tra la la, tweedle de, were among the first words I ever uttered when my mouth started working in the summer of 1949. My mom and two of my older cousins used it to sing me to sleep and I’d bet a lot of money that my younger brothers enjoyed the lullaby as much as I did.
As I grew older and big enough to break beans and help peel ‘taters, I came to realize that Mom had a special affection for a couple of mockingbirds that hung out in our backyard as well as a small covey of bobwhite quail that resided in the side yard about 100 feet from the house. She took great delight in “talking” to them and having them talk back. She was even more delighted when she could get them talking to one another. We took our thrills wherever we could find them on Blair Branch back in those days.
Fast forward 50 years. If you are a regular reader of this column, you already know that I am not a great fan of mockingbirds. The ones on our place are intimidating bullies that chase other birds off our feeders and spend the rest of their time trying to flog my octogenarian cat. Poor Fancy has no peace on the front porch because two mockingbirds stay ready to give her grief if I’m not out there with her.
But here’s the thing. The largest, fattest, most aggressive of these two scoundrels will sit on our garden fence early in the morning and late in the day up to an hour at a time, and tra la la, tweedlde de de his way through bits and pieces of every birdsong he’s heard in the last month or so.
We will hear distinct notes of robin, wren, cardinal, flicker, bobwhite, towhee, red wing blackbirds, and a dozen others that I easily recognize, mixed in with dozens of other sounds that I only know to be birds. He even mimics the tiny wind chimes hanging on our front porch. If there is any meaning or pattern to his madness, I have not figured it out. As far as I can tell he simply loves to sing and does so with much gusto.
But he eventually tires of the serenade and before I know it’s over, he is back on the front porch rail within three feet of my face trying to gauge his chances at stealing a mouthful of Fancy’s cat food.
I slap my hands at him and he simply hops to one side, stares me down and utters a very loud, one-syllable “GAARK!”, which I take to mean, “Get off this porch. I’ve sung my heart out and I’m hungry.”